Learning for the joy of learning

Knowledge is more than power. It’s rejuvenating, say many who have taken advantage of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), a program at CSUB that promotes continuous learning for active adults 50 years and better.

“You get old by isolating (yourself) and not being involved in society,” said Doug White, a retired high school music teacher and longtime member. “The more you can be involved, the younger you’ll stay.”

According to OLLI director Jennifer Patino, the program’s beauty lies in the fact that members can learn for the simple joy of learning.

“There are no tests; no homework,” she said. “It’s about the sharing of knowledge and great times.”

Course topics run the gamut and vary in length from quarter to quarter, ranging from a single day to 10-week sessions and everything in between. The OLLI program operates year-round, with many courses starting late in the quarter.  There are morning, afternoon, evening, and even weekend classes.

White said he and his wife have taken courses in everything from watercolor painting and swing dancing to archaeology and art history.

Other popular courses have included Tai Chi, food and wine pairings, genealogy, foreign language, and many different types of art courses. Besides on-campus classes, each quarter OLLI takes an out-of-town day trip.  So far, members have visited the Ronald Reagan Library, The Getty Museum, and the Museum of Tolerance to name just a few.

Patino said that a new social networking class has been gaining steam as of late. But, perhaps the most popular is Annis Cassells’ memoir writing course, in which she helps students dig into their memories and, through the power of writing, create a legacy of stories for their family members to cherish.

Cassells is a life coach, speaker, freelance writer and blogger, and has been teaching memoir writing for OLLI since 2006. She has seen her students blossom both as writers and as friends.

“People keep coming back and it’s like a community,” she said. “Some people have come into the class saying they’ve never written anything or can’t write anything. And with encouragement from all of us, and writing prompts, they start remembering and they start writing. And the more they write, the more they remember. The stories become very rich.”

Longtime OLLI member Doris Schroeder took the class and completed an entire book that she gave to her family members as a gift. She started taking Cassells’ class after a family genealogy project left her wanting more than just names and dates.

“Thanks to Annis, she motivated me to write stories of my life,” said Schroeder. “Some were sweet, some were bitter, and many were never told. Annis not only taught me how to write interesting accounts, she was also a great therapist who helped me dismiss events in my life that I was just as happy to forget.”

OLLI is funded by a grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation, which supports programs on more than 100 university and college campuses across the country.

You learn something new every day, so the saying goes. If you’re an OLLI member, you’re bound to learn much more.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute needs you

OLLI at CSUB, which presents learning opportunities for seniors and others in our community, is in need of new members — at least 200 more.

The Osher Foundation is OLLI’s largest supporter, but the program could become self-sufficient if membership grows to 500. If that number is achieved, OLLI is eligible for a $1 million endowment from the Osher Foundation. The money would ensure that the program that promotes lifelong learning and enriches so many local lives in our community will be around long term.

Membership is just $35 per year and includes a significant discount on classes. (Most classes are $5 for members and $25 for nonmembers.)

For more information about OLLI at CSUB, please visit csub.edu/OLLI.

— Rob Meszaros, CSUB director of public affairs and communications